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Category archive for: Laura Read

July

The air conditioner is dripping

down the peeling paint, and the bathroom

is full of poisoned bees staring at themselves

in the mirror before they die,

and all I want to do is drive, the radio a river

of summers, everything I’ve lost

flashing in its current.

The car is blowing cool air over my skin

and my arms are bare and freckled

and they still look like my young arms,

the ones I stared at in the sunlight

on the front steps of my first house,

thinking These are mine.

No years in the skin, the years

my friend from college keeps talking about

when I meet her for breakfast.

She orders eggs and then apologizes

because she remembers how much

I don’t like them, even though

it’s been twenty years since she left

her pink coat in the front closet

and then called from Red Deer to ask me

to send it. It was too soon, we needed

more time to slide under. But I went

to the closet and took the coat off the hanger.

It had fake fur and little suede triangles,

and I folded it and packed it in a box.

My friend sips her coffee. Even back then

she could let a pause fall like a shaft

of light. But when I poured too much

rum in my coke night after night,

she poured some of it back, and through

the thin walls of our house I sometimes

heard her crying. She doesn’t finish

her eggs and they sit between us

on the table. Soon we will have to go

back outside, into July.

from Dresses from the Old Country (2018)Find other Laura Read books in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Intro to Poetry

Professor Nordhaus assigned me

Galway Kinnell’s “The Hen Flower,” section 2

of The Book of Nightmares, instead of section 3,

“The Shoes of Wandering.”

Who wouldn’t rather go with Galway

to The Salvation Army to try on “these shoes strangers

have died from”? But instead, I got the hens,

unable to understand the ax or the eggs,

and me, not getting why it was the hen

who helped Galway know

how little he knew, how we sleep on the feathers

of hens, how these feathers are all that lie

between us and darkness.

How hard it must have been to write

“Listen, Kinnell,” and then to stop writing and listen

to the hens in their sawdust beds.

How hard it was to read and then go back

to my room in Grace’s house where she let me stay

for free while I went to school

so I could learn again and again that everything

dies, even the poem, even Galway

who died this week and brought me back

to that classroom where I sat behind

a dark-haired girl named Mona.

She only spoke once in class, the day we discussed

a poem called “Breasts.” I learned then that she wasn’t

shy, she just didn’t care much for shoes

or hens, but breasts she liked, she kept almost

cupping her own under her sweater as she talked

about the poem until I thought she was going

to actually show them. Which is where I think

the poem was going.

from Dresses from the Old Country (2018)Find other Laura Read books in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Vaccination

The scar on my arm is thin like the skin

of a fruit close to splitting.

It marks my birth as before ’72,

before the end of smallpox but after polio,

after the wheelchairs and the iron lungs,

the radios crackling with war.

If you were born then, you remember

taking your Halloween candy

to the fire station to have it checked

for razor blades. You were a gypsy

because that was still okay.

Maybe there was one black girl

in your class like Martha Washington

who brought upside-down clown cones

for her birthday and then moved away.

You watched the Challenger blow up

on the news again and again.

I was there in my boots and eyeliner,

waiting by the wall until a boy

asked me to dance. His mouth was a shock

of salt. I flicked my name off like ash

from my cigarette. I loved how the tip

flamed, like the squares of coal

in our furnace. Maybe you remember

my father. He was thin and transparent

like the place where the needle went through.

Maybe I can peel it off, the dead skin

from a burn, the kind we got back then,

before sunscreen, when we just took off

our clothes and got in.

from Dresses from the Old Country (2018)Find other Laura Read books in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.